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anchor: One in the television studio who ties together the newscast by reading the news and providing transitions from one story to the next. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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28 tips for writing theater, movie and performance reviews

By Robert Greenman

Compare these guidelines with what you see in newspaper reviews of movies, plays and concerts.

  1. begin a review with an opinion
  2. critique throughout the review
  3. support your opinions with examples
  4. point out strengths as well as weaknesses  
  5. compare and contrast the work being reviewed with works readers may be familiar with and with other works of the author.
  6. don’t reveal too much of a play’s or movie’s plot; a review is not a synopsis, nor do you want to give away too much
  7. give credit to work, talent and skill
  8. write conversationally; always have your audience in mind; you must hold them
  9. recreate the experience of a live concert for the reader who wasn’t there, and have the reader who was there,  think, “Yes, that’s what it was like!”
  10. don’t let your prejudices influence your review
  11. if you are ambivalent, say so; ambivalence is ever-present in taste and opinion
  12. sarcasm, satire and ridicule are a consideration when you deem a work a travesty, a rip-off or really, really awful
  13. don’t be mean; even a well-deserved panning must not be mean-spirited
  14. even something not very good may require a kind or tender review – yet, still, an honest one
  15. your readers are your main responsibility; but you must be fair to those you write about
  16. vary your sentence lengths and types
  17. write concisely, but write richly
  18. develop and use a broad vocabulary
  19. use allusions, similes, and other literary techniques
  20. experiment with writing styles
  21. mix colloquial, informal and formal language; slang, too
  22. make humor a part of your style
  23. don’t write to impress
  24. be informative; be persuasive; be interesting; be engaging; be readable
  25. do your homework; produce knowledgeable reviews
  26. add to your readers’ knowledge, appreciation and understanding
  27. care deeply about standards and quality in the arts
  28. know your field; become literate in all the arts; learn a lot; be passionate about your interest ineld; become literate in all the arts; learn a lot; be passionate about your interest in, and love for, the arts

Robert Greenman is a writer, educator and speaker with major interests in journalism education, vocabulary acquisition, and education in general. Reprinted with permission.

© 2009 by Robert Greenman.. This material is available without charge to teachers and students at all levels for their personal and classroom use.